1. They empower people to become healthier and more engaged with running.
At the best shops in the country, selling product is not the top priority; instead it's about empowering people to become healthier and more engaged with running. Fleet Feet Sports in Schereville, Ind., has its mission statement hanging on its wall for all to see.
2. They have a prominent and well-organized shoe wall.
A great running store must have a prominent and well-organized shoe wall. At The Run Around in Joplin, Mo., Erik Bartlett custom built his shoe wall and apparel racks out of powder-coated steel to maintain the industrial feel of the store’s historic brick building.
3. They have a detailed and trustworthy shoe-fitting process
The best stores in the country, including Runner's Depot in Davie, Florida, have a detailed and trustworthy shoe-fitting process than offers fitting expertise, up-to-date knowledge of all shoes and trends and the ability to adapt to a customer's specific needs.
4. There's plenty of space.
The best shops in the country have plenty of space, especially around its apparel racks. Playmakers in Okemos, Michigan, has a massive store, which helps it smartly spread things out.
5. There's a clean, bright and welcoming interior, as well as an engaging staff.
The country's best shops, like Red Coyote Running & Fitness in Oklahoma City, have a clean, bright and welcoming interior, as well as an engaging staff able to help any level of runner.
6. They host regular group runs.
A great running shop, like The Runner's Depot in Davie, Florida, organizes regular group runs for all levels of runners.
7. There's a clean, well-lit and well-organized interior.
The best shops in the country, like the Potomac River Running shops around the Washington D.C. area, have a clean, well-lit and well-organized interior.
8. It oozes running culture.
The best shops in the country, like Shu's Running, Boise, Idaho, ooze running culture and know how to cater to a wide range of customers.
9. They know how to have fun.
The best shops in the country know how to have fun with it and spread the joy of running. Naperville Running Company owner Kris Hartner (blue shirt at center) takes pride in the quality people on his staff and fosters a friendly and fun atmosphere in the store.
10. It has an organized, open layout.
Fleet Feet Sports in Huntsville, Alabama, has a well-lit and well-organized shoe wall, plus plenty of space for customers to walk around at the shoe-fitting area.
11. They recognize the accomplishments of local runners.
The top running shops in the country have some kind of wall of fame or place to acknowledge the accomplishments of local runners. Rush Running Company in Bentonville, Ark., has both a wall of fame (left) inside the store and a wall of shame (right) in its bathroom.
12. They're at the forefront of the local running community.
At Sole Sports, in Tempe, Arizona, owner Lance Muzslay makes sure his stores are at the forefront of the local running communities with free clinics, shopping nights for clubs or teams and fun running-oriented social events.
13. They offer generous support to local school programs.
The best stores in the country offer generous support to local school programs, from colleges and high schools all the way down to local grade schools and middle schools. The Naperville Running Company has jerseys of local teams hanging in its store.
14. They have a place for you to test shoes.
Garry Gribble's Running in Kansas City is one of a handful of stores in the U.S. that has a track inlaid in its floor. Not only does it look cool, it actually gives runners a place to wear-test shoes they're considering without going outside.
15. They're well-lit and well-merchandized.
The country's best shops, including 1st Place Sports in Jacksonville, Florida, are well-lit and smartly merchandized so customers have room to walk, look in mirrors and easily try things on or look in a mirror.
16. They offer regular clinics.
The best shops in the U.S., like the Fleet Feet Sports in Schererville, Indiana, offer regular sports med clinics, coaching nights and slide shows.
17. They maximize use of space.
The best running shops maximize the use of limited space. The Sayville Running Company in Sayville, New York, has a well-lit shoe wall adorned with local team and race shirts and a variety of accessory products nearby without making it feel congested.
The specialty running best shops in the country do things a little better than most of their peers. After interviewing some of the owners and managers of the 50 Best Running Stores in America for 2013, we found a handful of things most of them have in common.